NFHS report shows massive increase in cases
Despite a massive increase in spousal violence cases in Karnataka, most cases go unreported.
According to the latest National Family and Health Survey (NHFS), cases of domestic violence against women has doubled in Karnataka since 2016. About 20 per cent of married women faced violence from their husbands in 2015-16; that percentage increased to 44.4 per cent in 2019-20. Despite this, the crime rate for domestic violence has decreased in Karnataka from 8.3 in 2016 to 7.6 in 2019 as per National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data.
This suggests that many women are reluctant to file police complaints against their spouses. The crime rate further decreased to 6.3 in 2020.
Somya Dixit, a victim of domestic violence, informed The Observer: “I got married when I was 19. I had never met him or his family prior to my wedding. I was really young and hadn’t even completed my degree yet. At that age, I did not know whom to tell.”
She went through physical and mental torture for several years. She also suffered a miscarriage owing to domestic abuse. Asked why she never reported the matter to the police, she said, “As a girl, I was taught that women are supposed to make compromises in a marital relationship. Rishtey to nibhane hi hote hain (one has to maintain relationships).” She filed for a divorce after a paralytic attack because of increasing stress and trauma. But she never filed a police complaint against her husband.
Usha, a sub-inspector at the Women’s Police Station, Basavanagudi, said: “In an average month, a single police division in Karnataka gets 10 to 15 cases of domestic violence.” During the lockdown last year, a large number of cases of domestic violence and harassment were reported. Statistics show that an increasing number of women are suffering in silence.
Sumithra Sridhar, a lead relationship and couples therapist in Bengaluru, said: “Cases like these arise from patriarchy and stigma. To understand this issue, we have to remove our privileged lens. Even today, women are bound by societal rules. They are taught that they have to stay in a marriage even if they are suffering.” Often women fear reporting their husbands because of a lack of financial independence.
Anshul Girdhar, a research scholar in psychology, explained: “There are several psychological and social aspects behind the fact that women are reluctant to report. The legal procedure is often very complicated and time-consuming. A lot of women do not want to invest so much, especially when there is no social support from their family and in-laws.”
There is a lack of awareness, especially among rural women. Women are often not aware of the laws against domestic violence, and about the incentives/provisions provided for the victims, Girdhar added.
The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, protects women from any kind of assault or violence – physical or mental – occurring within their homes. Section 498A of the IPC (husband or relative of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) considers it a criminal and non-bailable offence. A person convicted under this section can get up to three years of jail.